War crimes judges on Wednesday sentenced former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba to one year’s imprisonment for bribing witnesses in his main trial, and ordered he pay a $323 640 fine.
“The chamber imposes on you an additional 12 months, one year imprisonment,” presiding judge Bertram Schmitt told Bemba, passing sentence at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Schmitt added the sentence would run consecutively to an 18-year-term Bemba is already serving after being convicted of war crimes carried out by his marauding troops in the Central African Republic in 2002 to 2003.
Bemba’s four accomplices, lawyer Aime Kilolo, his legal case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda, Narcisse Arido, a defence witness, and Congolese lawmaker Fidele Babala were sentenced to between six months and two-and-half years in jail.
None of the four will however spend time in jail as judges took into account time already spent in the ICC’s detention centre in The Hague. They also agreed to suspend the sentences for Mangenda and Kilolo for three years.
Bemba however, did not qualify for a reduction of sentence and will serve the one year “consecutively” to the 18 years already handed to him by the court based in The Hague.
He was also ordered to pay a $323 640 fine “within three months” – with the money to be transferred into the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims, which helps rehabilitate victims and affected communities.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Schmitt said judges “are of the opinion that there is a need to discourage this sort of behaviour and to prevent it from happening again.”
The sentences are however lighter than asked for by prosecutors, who wanted eight years for Bemba and Kilolo, seven for Mangenda, five for Arido and three for Babala.
The feared former rebel leader and his four associates were found guilty in October of bribing witnesses in what judges at the world war crimes court described as “clear and downright criminal behaviour”.
The bribery verdict was the first of its kind in the ICC’s history, and the charges were brought after a tip-off to the prosecutor’s office.